Illegal cellphones key to SC prison riot

Prison riot ended this week with tear gas and the release of a CO being held captive

By John Monk
The Herald Online

LEE COUNTY, S.C. — Cellphones played a prominent role in the Lee County prison riot that that ended in the early-morning hours Wednesday with tear gas and the release of a guard being held captive. Cellphones like the ones that inmates used to talk with officials during the riot are illegal in prison, but many inmates have them.

“I’m told an average cellphone — nothing real fancy — will go for $500,” S.C. Department of Corrections spokesman Clark Newsom said.

No one has any idea how many of the state’s 23,000 inmates have cellphones. But Newsom said that in the past six months, about 3,600 cellphones have been confiscated from inmates during shakedowns and searches across the Department of Corrections’ 27-prison archipelago.

Although some cellphones are obviously smuggled into prisons by guards or visitors, most are thrown over the fences that surround prisons, including the sprawling 1,100-inmate maximum-security Lee Correctional Institution, one of the state’s highest-security prisons, just outside Bishopville, about 60 miles east of Columbia, where the riot took place, Newsom said.

Full story: Illegal cellphones key to Lee prison riot

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